Is There a Safe Way to Tan?

Feb 12 2020

Is There a Safe Way to Tan?

Tanning is a controversial topic: while many desire the sun-kissed look and go to great lengths to achieve the perfect tan, dermatologists strictly oppose the practice because tanned skin is actually damaged skin and puts you at a higher risk of developing skin cancers.

On top of this, there are many misconceptions about tanning. Some believe that tanning is required  for vitamin D production (it isn’t), and others think that getting a light “base tan” before summer will prevent sunburn (it won’t).

The Dangers of Tanning

First things first: There is no such thing as a healthy natural tan, and there are no safe ways to achieve a natural tan. 

There is no reason to tan for your physical health. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVA rays, the rays that cause your skin to tan, have no effect on your vitamin D production, and getting a tan does nothing to protect against sunburn

Tanning is purely cosmetic. Even then, there are safer ways to get the tanned look without risking your skin’s health. 

But first, you should know the risks that the different types of tanning carry:

Outdoor Tanning

The sun releases two types of UV rays that reach us on earth: UVA and UVB rays. The same UVA rays responsible for tanning cause your skin to age prematurely and are directly linked to the development of skin cancer. UVB rays cause sunburn, and getting more than 5 blistering sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma

Tanning Beds

Indoor tanning equipment, like tanning beds, emit both UVA and UVB rays. However, according to doctors with Harvard Health, the bulbs in tanning beds emit mostly UVA rays and in higher quantities. Some bulbs emit UVA radiation with three times the intensity of natural sunlight
It’s estimated that around 400,000 cases of skin cancer each year are caused by the use of indoor tanning beds. Your chance of developing melanoma — the most deadly form of skin cancer — increases by nearly 60 percent if you use tanning beds before age 35, and you are 6 times more likely to develop melanoma if you are under 30.

Sunless Tanning 

Sunless tanners have come a long way since the days of streaky, orange tints. The sunless tanners used today are better formulated to give your face and body a smooth, natural-looking tan without the artificial-looking skin of years ago. 

How does sunless tanning work?

Most sunless tanning products — lotions, creams, foams or sprays — work by using dihydroxyacetone (abbreviated as DHA), a chemical that reacts with the amino acids in your skin. This reaction causes the skin proteins to darken and appear as if tanned. This type of “tan” usually fades away within a few days and can be reapplied afterwards.

A before and after image of a spray tan application

Evaluation by the EWG found that DHA is safe and non-toxic for almost any use.

There are sunless tanning options for every skin tone.  NKD SKN offers sunless tanners in multiple forms and in shades of medium and dark. If neither shade works for you, they also have a gradual tanner that allows you to build up to your desired shade of bronze over the course of a few days. 

Vita Liberata is another brand that also carries a line of sunless tanners in multiple shades, but they also offer a longer lasting 2-3 week self-tanning mousse for when you want a low-maintenance tan. This organic based formula has the added benefit of containing moisturizing ingredients like grape juice extract and aloe to help your skin feel as good as it looks. 

Some sunless tanners have sunscreen built in, but the AAD says you should still apply a traditional sunscreen or use protective clothing if you plan on heading outside. 

You’ll want to use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30+. This will help prevent UVA and UVB rays from reaching your skin. Since the rays don’t reach your skin, you’re protected from sunburn.

Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreens are naturally broad spectrum and are suitable for all skin types. Our new 50+ SPF mineral sticks are a convenient and easy way to stay sun safe wherever you are.